As July was turning into August, the president of the United States unleashed several insults via Twitter to describe Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which includes much of Baltimore. The president described the district as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” that is “FAR WORSE and more dangerous” than the nation’s southern border. He called the district “the Worst in the USA.”
Although at first seemingly random, the Twitter attack was a not-so-subtle shot at Representative Elijah E. Cummings’ (D, Md.) home turf. Cummings has been a fierce critic of the administration’s treatment of detained migrants at the southern U.S. border.
The end of Trump’s tirade caught our attention—the bit about Baltimore being “the WORST in the USA”—mostly because we spend our time compiling and analyzing data to come up with our list of America’s Best Cities, which ranks the nation’s best large and small cities using Resonance Consultancy’s unique combination of statistical performance and qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors.
By all measures, explained here, Baltimore is actually one of the best large cities in America (measured by an MSA population of 1 million or more), ranking 35th just behind Columbus, but ahead of Providence, Tucson, Richmond and Oklahoma City to name a few. In response to Trump’s attacks, the president’s detractors, residents, Baltimore natives and politicians flooded Twitter to join Representative Cummings as he defended himself and the city. The topic “#WeAreBaltimore” was soon trending at #1 on Twitter with thousands of posts touting all the ways in which Baltimore is pretty awesome.
Dozens of locally driven push-backs followed, including last week’s launch of coffee mugs emblazoned with riffs of Trump’s disparaging tweets, whose proceeds will be donated to local youth programs.
Baltimore is a city of contradictions, a bold, working-class city tied to its nautical heritage. Babe Ruth, Billie Holiday, John Waters and Francis Scott Key, who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” all called Charm City home. In recent years, the city that was once the most important port towns in America has evolved into an emerging tourist destination with a vibrant nightlife, independent shops, and lots of museums, art galleries and cultural venues.
Indeed, Baltimore earns its 35th spot on America’s Best Cities list thanks to a #26 overall ranking for Programming, which includes subcategories that look at the overall quality of Museums (#14), Shopping (#26), Nightlife (#21), Restaurants (#26) and Culture (#36).
“It’s the only city left that’s cheap enough to have a bohemia,” film director and artist John Waters told The New York Times earlier this year. That kind of affordability is increasingly rare in centrally located, historic American cities. As more artists discover the possibility of dedicating time and energy to their craft—as opposed to side hustles to pay the rent—we anticipate Baltimore’s cultural ascent to continue in future Programming rankings.
But it’s not like Baltimore—or ‘Bawlmer’ to locals—is a secret. The city has seen the opening of new boutique hotels and quaint cafes in forgotten neighborhoods now bustling with farm-to-table restaurants and food courts like the Mount Vernon Marketplace, which is within walking distance of the Baltimore Art Museum and worth the downtown detour.
Just last year, Baltimore nabbed a much-coveted spot on the Times’ ‘52 Places To Go in 2018’ list.
Sure, Baltimore has its share of problems, as do most American cities. But while it may rank a dismal #49 for Crime, Baltimore is also home to world-class institutions like Johns Hopkins University, which helps the city score a #4 ranking for University. Another city institution is, of course, Camden Yard, home to the Orioles. Baltimore ranks #20 for Pro Sports Teams.
As the Baltimore Sun editorial board responded to the president in an op-ed, “Better to have a few rats than to be one.” We couldn’t agree more.